Colorado has joined California to become one of only two states that have a semblance of a medical-marijuana distribution system, the executive director of National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) said this week.
“But the difference is stark and profound,” Allen St. Pierre said in a telephone interview from Washington, D.C. “We fought for the rights in California, but the rise in Colorado was immediate.”
Thirteen states allow the use of marijuana medicinally, but except for Colorado and California, the others operate on what St. Pierre called a “self-preservation system.” Authorized users are on their own to grow or buy their cannabis, he said.
Reform of marijuana laws is coming – slowly but inexorably, St. Pierre said. He cited the Obama administration’s decision to sic federal agents on marijuana distributors only when they violate state as well as federal law. The sale of marijuana for medical purposes remains against federal law.
Two states, New Mexico and Rhode Island, have approved laws sanctioning the sale of medical marijuana, St. Pierre said. These winds of change could sweep California, Massachusetts and Texas into following suit to regulate and tax the substance, he said.
“In past administrations, such action would have triggered a rocket ride straight to the U.S. Supreme Court,” St. Pierre said.
The change in official attitude mirrors public opinion, St. Pierre said. Polls find 75 percent of people favor the use of marijuana for medical purposes and, by almost the same margin, the decriminalization of marijuana use.
The wide acceptance of cannabis by the public is reflected in the Showtime television series “Weeds” – which just ended its fifth season – that follows the adventures of a widowed California housewife who is the neighborhood source for marijuana.
It’s no wonder the show takes place in California – where 2.5 million to 3 million people use marijuana medicinally, St. Pierre said.
The state has 1,400 to 1,800 marijuana dispensaries, including kiosks in the Los Angeles Basin that operate 24 hours a day, he said.
Oregon has cashed in on marijuana, charging 24,000 to 26,000 medical pot users $150 a year for an identification card, St. Pierre said.
by Dale Rodebaugh
October 4, 2009
The Durango Herald